Vectors and quaternions are quite different mathematical quantities because they have different symmetry properties. Gibbs and Heaviside created their vector system starting from the quaternion system invented by Hamilton. They identified a pure quaternion as a vector and introduced some changes in the product of two vectors defined by Hamilton without realizing that the scalar product and vector product cannot be interpreted as the scalar part and vector part of the quaternion product. Toward the end of the 19th century some authors realized that there was an incompatibility between the vector and quaternion formalisms, but the central problem was not altogether clear. This paper will show that the main difficulty arose from Hamilton’s contradictory use of i, j, and k both as versors and as vectors.
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